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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell's inability to quickly strike a deal on a power-sharing agreement in the new 50-50 Congress is slowing down everything from the confirmation of President Biden's nominees to Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

Why it matters: Whatever final stance Schumer takes on the stalemate, which largely comes down to Democrats wanting to use the legislative filibuster as leverage over Republicans, will be a signal of the level of hardball we should expect Democrats to play with Republicans in the new Senate.

The holdups: Everything being done in the Senate right now is operating on unanimous consent agreements, which can only work for so long and won't fly when Democrats try to pass serious legislation, like a forthcoming pandemic relief bill.

  • The committee ratios are currently in favor of Republicans, and Democrats need the power sharing accord to sort out the new committee make-ups and chairmen.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she is waiting to send the article of impeachment against Trump to the Senate until the organizing resolution is completed (a similar posture she insisted on in Trump's first impeachment trial).

State of play: McConnell and the GOP conference want an upfront commitment from Democrats that they will not try to eliminate the 60-vote legislative threshold and hold it over their heads during negotiations over the next two-plus years.

  • Many Senate Republicans have begun circulating a bipartisan letter from 2017 signed by 61 senators, including then-Senator Kamala Harris, who supported upholding the filibuster when Republicans ruled both chambers of Congress and the White House.

What they're saying: “I think at the moment, it’s a little bit stalled out, but I hope they can get back on track," Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.) said of the status of the sharing agreement. "Obviously the big issue was the legislative filibuster."

  • Centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.): “Chuck has the right to do what he’s doing. He has the right to use [the filibuster] to leverage in whatever he wants to do. .... They’re not going to grind this place to a halt."
  • Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.): “There was a letter that Sens. Collins and Coons generated [in] 2017 when, at the time, President Trump was calling for an elimination of the filibuster pretty forcefully ... senators said ‘no, we should not change that, we should continue with the legislative filibuster.’"

Go deeper

Kaine, Collins' censure resolution seeks to bar Trump from holding office again

Sen. Tim Kaine (center) and Sen. Susan Collins (right). Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool via Getty Images

Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) are forging ahead with a draft proposal to censure former President Trump, and are considering introducing the resolution on the Senate floor next week.

Why it matters: Senators are looking for a way to condemn Trump on the record as it becomes increasingly unlikely Democrats will obtain the 17 Republican votes needed to gain a conviction, Axios Alayna Treene writes. "I think it’s important for the Senate's leadership to understand that there are alternatives," Kaine told CNN on Wednesday.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court rejects Trump's attempt to shield documents from Jan. 6 committee

Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

The Supreme Court rejected on Wednesday night a bid by former President Trump to block the release of documents and records from his administration to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Why it matters: Trump asked the Supreme Court to step in and block the release of the documents last month after a panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously denied his attempt to prevent the committee from obtaining the materials.

Senate Republicans block voting rights bill

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell walks to the Senate floor on Jan. 18. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate Republicans blocked Democrats' voting rights legislation from coming to a final vote on Wednesday in what was largely viewed as a doomed effort from the start.

Why it matters: The failed vote underscores the Democratic Party's current uphill battle to pass sweeping legislation in a 50-50 Senate.